How do these fakes work?
Fake banks are used to bolster the claims of a scammer who is engaged in another fraud of some kind, whereas fake escrow sites are the means by which the scam is perpetrated, but both aim to inspire confidence in the potential victim to such a degree that they will part with their money.
The fake bank sites are often part of a standard advance fee fraud or 419 (see the guide to scams for introductory information about 419 fraud). The scammer will purport to be from the fake bank, or will claim to have lodged a huge sum of money in an account for the victim. The victim will usually be asked to contact the “banker” who will then demand fees for various certificates, clearance charges, official licences etc. Another increasingly popular scam is to show the potential victim an account containing a “loan” which they can have if they pay an administration fee.
Escrow sites are meant to offer security to both buyer and seller in a transaction. A legitimate escrow site will take a payment from the buyer and hold it for the seller, but will not release the money to the seller until the buyer confirms that they have received the goods. Setting up a fake escrow site means that the scammer can defraud either a buyer or a seller. If the victim is the buyer, he sends the payment to the fake escrow but receives no goods. If he is the seller, the fake escrow tells him that the payment has been received, so he sends the goods but never gets paid for them.
In addition to any fraud perpetrated on someone, fake bank scammers commit criminal offences simply by pretending to be banks, which must be registered with the relevant authority in any country in which they operate.
How to spot a fake
Many fake bank and escrow sites closely resemble genuine sites in an attempt to make them more convincing, but there will be signs that they are fake. For example, any email addresses listed in the email directing you to the site, or on the site itself may be from a free email provider. The common ones used are Hotmail, Yahoo, or Mail.com (which has a list of profession-based domains like lawyer.com or consultant.com). However, some scammers receive an email account with their fake site, so don’t assume that an email address that matches the site name is safe.
Real bank and escrow sites will use secure server connections (SSLs) to protect customers, so you should see https:// or shttp:// in the address window in your browser. Fakes will not have this. They may pretend to be secure by using the logo of one of the common SSL verification companies, such as Verisign, but check with Verisign to make sure the site is listed.
Real banks have to be registered with the regulator for every country in which they operate, so check with the relevant authority. There is a list of regulators available here. The list is just one of the many excellent services and tools offered by Artists Against 419, which is the leading site for anything to do with fake banks. You’ll find more links below.
Where to find more information